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Eyes on the Reef

Community Contributed

By Cheryl Corbiell

On June 6, Darla White with DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) provided the first “Eyes of the Reef” (EOR) skills training on Molokai at Kulana `Oiwi to an enthusiastic crowd of Molokai residents.

The EOR training has been designed to help ocean users such as community members, reef users, fishers, and commercial operators the skills to provide reliable monitoring and reporting on coral bleaching; coral and fish diseases; Crown-of-thorns Sea stars outbreaks, marine alien invasive species, and native species blooms. The participants learned how to detect the early signs of coral in distress.

“Threats to the world’s reefs have increased by over 30 percent, and today, 75 percent of the coral reefs in the world are threatened,” said White.  “Pollution, climate change, poor land practices, and increasing recreational and extractive activities create environmental conditions on coral reefs that foster coral disease and coral bleaching, support the spread of invasive species, and threaten reef health.”

Scientists and reef managers are only able to monitor a small fraction of Hawaii’s 410,000 acres of widespread reef systems, so more trained eyes are needed to catch these events early on.  Without initial sightings by the local “eyes” on our reefs, such occurrences may go unnoticed until it is too late.  For example, in 2013, a large bleaching event occurred on Molokai’s south shore due to a slight increase in water temperature.

The information collected through the EOR program is combined in a single data management and reporting system. The up-to-date information ocean users provide helps reef managers respond to harmful changes to the reef resources. Communities are now engaged as first responders to reef health status and trends. The training session can be viewed on Akaku at archive.org/details/EyesOnTheReef6615.

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